Trump – Trusting his Gut

March 13, 2018

The State Department is a shell of its former self, there are no ambassadors in key countries in Asia and the Middle East,  economic, domestic and foreign policy advisers in the White House who are level D minds keeps growing, and the lobbying swamp is not being drained but rather is filling up. What this country is left with is a president who now claims that it is better if he just trusts his gut when making important decisions. This is now what the term “unconventional president” has come to mean – play to your base, use Twitter to lash out at opponents, and allow a gigantic ego to control the direction of the country.

Apologists for the President and even some mainstream pundits are beginning to claim that the “unconventional president” is keeping his campaign promises, challenging national and international rules that have gone years without serious review, and playing the tough guy (or madman) in order to Make America Great Again.

But the world works, or a least has worked, since the end of World War II on a foundation of trust, cooperation, consensus, and mutual respect. While the stock market is erratic but upward bound, the economy is strong,  and unemployment is down, there is no doubt that the United States under President Trump has lost influence in the world and is fostering a climate of unilateral protectionism. If Trump’s developed a catch phrase for his ” gut ” policy perspective it would be The World Be Damned ( except Russia).

Following the ” gut ” and damning the world may sound good to those who live in a time long gone and think that policies are best defined as implemented on a foundation of testosterone. But we live in a time when the world is inter-connected, there are multiple powers around the globe, expert analysis and the truth still hold value, and relying on the “gut” is so filled with risk and miscalculation that one wrong move could spell economic, domestic and foreign policy disaster.

Those who support President Trump may feel a rush of energy and revenge when their guy takes on the establishment, but feeling good about ridiculing fake news, that weakling Obama or the globalists at the UN or the World Trade Organization does little to repair the damage to our international influence or reputation. What the “35 percenters” fail to realize is that feeling good is temporary, but losing influence and reputation to other world powers can easily be lasting. There is no doubt that the US is one of the richest country in the world and a major military power, but the US has slipped in so many socio-economic categories and most importantly is no longer as Ronald Reagan said, “that shining city on a hill,” Trusting your ” gut ” does not lead to a “shining city on a hill.”



Thankful for Small Favors

February 14, 2018

It should come as no surprise to anyone with an appreciation of how President Trump and the Republican Congress played the ” forgotten American” card and advanced what some have called a “peasants revolt” that poll numbers show a small but important spike in support for The Donald and the GOP. It all comes down to the simple fact that Americans got their tax cut reward in their take home pay.

It really makes no difference whether the reward was the $ 1.50 a week praised by Speaker Ryan or the more common $ 50-$100 bump a month for many working Americans. Progressives and leftist economists can point out until they are blue in the face that the tax cut is skewed toward the wealthy and big corporations, but most Americans have never really been upset over what the rich get out of tax cuts compared to what they receive in their pay envelope.  They are just thankful for small favors.

Democrats continue to fail at understanding the “forgotten” or the “peasants” and believe that harping on the inequality of the cuts will somehow weaken the Trump base and bring about the end of Trumpism. The response of the tax cuts to many Americans is simple human nature-more in my pocket is a good thing, less for the government is even better. The amount in the pocket is not as important as the fact that it is found money, a small favor.

Of course Trump and the Republicans are by no means out of the woods; there is the huge bump in the fiscal year deficit, the burgeoning national debt, the new signs of inflation, the wild ride of the stock market, and of course more stupid tweets and White House dysfunction. But again most Americans don’t sit up nights worrying about deficits, debts, inflation and the impact on their grandchildren; that extra cash in their pockets is what matters. I rarely run into someone who is even remotely concerned about the economic and financial impact of Republican tax policies on the security and lifestyle of their grandkids. It is much like the real threat from global warming – somehow the future will take of itself, what is important is the here and now.

The Democrats continue to show that they are riding the wave of rejection of Trump and the GOP but don’t count the Republicans out of the game as Trump and the conservatives will continue to play to the base by touting the tax cut. It just might work, especially if the Democrats forget what Clinton’s campaign adviser James Carville said, ” It’s the economy stupid.”


I Love Starbursts, Trump Candy

January 17, 2018

Against the better judgment of my daughter Kathy who is a nurse, I too often go down the candy aisle and throw a package of Starbursts into the shopping cart.  My favorite Starbursts are the the red ones – cherry and strawberry.  I know they are not good for me, but my will power against sugar is weak.

So when I heard that Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House Majority Leader, sought to gain the attention and support of President Trump by sending him a whole candy bowl of red Starbursts, I was immediately conflicted.  I understand the attraction of the “reds”, but I was worried that gaining the ear of a president by giving him candy is to say the least troublesome.

Now every president has their weak spots and preferences whether it is cute puppies, high end Scotch or beautiful blondes, but the candy strategy is a new one and says a lot about how to get to the President when important matters are on the line. President Trump is not known for following a healthy diet, but the Starburst caper reveals that our president may make allies based on shallow if not juvenile gift giving.

McCarthy to his credit realized that to get to the President’s ear policy presentations and issue discussions are not the road to victory; the President rarely reads, has a short attention span and gets his information from Fox and Friends. The policy and issue key may now be candy not reasoned debate. It is abundantly clear that challenging the President in public, questioning his veracity or worse yet failing to stroke his ego can only lead to a quick turnaround in promised legislation or a public Twitter attack, so why not try Starbursts as the path to effective executive-legislative relations.

The Democrats have been bemoaning the fact that President Trump doesn’t play fair and can’t be a reliable legislative partner, but what they should have done is feed his sweet tooth or his stomach. Maybe Nancy Pelosi should be sending the President Big Macs everyday or Minority Leader Schumer might drop by a case of Diet Cokes. It’s worth a try since traditional bipartisanship is going nowhere fast.

There is one certainty in all this Starburst strategy and that is those little red squares of sugar will either become highly popular or drop off as part of the candy elite. I know that I will put aside my politics and keep buying Starbursts, despite their use as a key to presidential access and ego stroking. Who would have thought that the issues of national concern were nothing but candy.



The Trump Kids

November 27, 2017

President Trump’s children from three marriages have gotten more attention than most offspring of a chief executive, especially the oldest “kids”- Eric, Donald and Ivanka, and the other “kid” by marriage, Jared Kushner. If there is a common thread that links the Trump family is that dad named his children from his marriage to Ivana to high profile campaign and later White House positions with vague job descriptions and questionable authority. One year into his presidency and the Trump “kids” have added little of value to their dad’s administration and more importantly are a national embarrassment.

Eric, the so-called smart one, has stayed away from government and is running the family business, which by most accounts has declined in net worth and brand recognition. Donald Jr., often described as the weak one much like Fredo from the Godfather saga, could likely be headed for the big house as the Russian collusion investigation moves forward. Ivanka, the well-dressed one, doesn’t really have a role, except to look beautiful and serve as a good-will ambassador to far away places. Jared, the presidential adviser, has been described by many in and out of conservative circles as the ” worst adviser to a president in recent memory.” Tiffany, the daughter of Marla Maples, is in law school and appears to have no interest in even being shown in photos standing next to deal ol’ dad, and Baron, the son of Melania and Trump, is a real kid, kind of a lost boy living in the White House.

Usually the family members of a president stay out of the limelight or follow their own career caring little to be associated with the mess that is Washington politics. But it is clear that President Trump sees his administration as a family business where his children use their positions to make money. It’s growing increasingly obvious that the Trump presidency is about using government and public policy to increase the bottom line or at the minimum to make friends in the corporate world who will owe their good fortune to Donald and the “kids.”

The Trump presidency and the family business is so much like many of the authoritarian regimes in Latin America,the Middle East and Africa where dictators rely on their gaggle of relatives to ensure trust and obedience in exchange for a cut of the wealth generated by government control and influence. Democratic values are unimportant and a drain on money making; a mix of capitalism and nepotism are what drives government.

What is a problem for President Trump and the “kids” is that although weakened this country still has an independent judiciary and functioning law enforcement agencies led by honorable men and women who still believe in the rule of law. It will be interesting to see how long the “kids” benefit from the power of their dad. It would be nice, though, to see the kids return to real estate and selling shoes.




Who Shot JFK?

October 23, 2017

President Trump’s decision to release over 3,000 pages of still classified documents related to the assassination of President Kennedy is sure to restart the debate over who killed the President that sad day in Dallas. Over 40,000 books have already been published on President Kennedy, most on the question, ” Who Killed the President?” This release of the documents is certain to get the presses rolling again on new conspiracy books. Talk about a cottage industry.

The debate over the Kennedy assassination intensified over the years as many Americans did not believe the Warren Commission report that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone; in fact currently polls point to nearly 60% of Americans who believe that Oswald was part of a larger conspiracy. The conspirators include the Mafia, the CIA, the military, the Cubans, the FBI, the Russians and a whole host of shady characters with ties to right-wing groups and anti-Kennedy haters. Despite the scientific work of forensic experts who examined the bullets, police radio transmissions, the path of the shots from the Texas Book Depository and the now famous Zapruder video, the conclusion was that there was only one shooter with one rifle ( no mysterious second shooter on the grassy knoll ).

And yet now over 50 years later there are still doubts about “Who Killed JFK?” It is always difficult for many Americans to come to the conclusion that one man acting alone was behind the murder of the century, so these documents may shed light on the unanswered questions that the Warren Commission failed to address or hid from public view. But don’t count on any new blockbusters, just more conspiracy talk that will fill the airwaves and the Internet. What the documents will do is just rekindle the assassination talk and disappoint those who feel that Oswald couldn’t have acted alone.

But if you are an anti-Trumper you will certainly see the President’s decision to release the documents as another savvy ploy to keep the media and the American people occupied instead of turning their attention to Russian meddling, sexual harassment, Obamacare, tax policy,  dead soldiers in Niger,and white supremacy. Americans love a conspiracy more than the dismal details of legislation, law suits, electioneering, and the dark side of our national psyche.

Maybe the mafia, the CIA or the Cubans did conspire to kill John Kennedy but what would such information ( certainly not incontrovertible proof) do other than further erode confidence in government? It is better to think about the loss of a promising and visionary president cut down in the prime of his life.


The 25 Issues That Shape American Politics

October 16, 2017


The Generals

October 10, 2017

This country has been fortunate to have distinguished military leaders as presidents, cabinet officials and heads of our national security system. These men have often brought a patriotic spirit, a commitment to public life, organizational skills and personal discipline to their positions in our government. From George Washington to Dwight Eisenhower to George H. W. Bush military training and wartime service shaped their leadership and decision-making capabilities.

Today during the Trump administration the military men that serve as his closest advisers are being called upon to function in a manner that requires a different type of leadership style and decision-making skill. Generals Kelly, Mattis and McMaster are basically charged with reining in an impulsive, petty, juvenile and grudge-holding chief executive.

The more we hear about the Trump generals it appears that they are the last line of defense against chaos and gross miscalculation. When the generals first signed up for service in the White House they didn’t think that they would be responsible for saving the country from a completely unqualified leader of the free world. Of course no one forced them to accept their jobs, but they likely saw the new president as a change agent who was committed to “Making American Great.”

But months into their jobs, it is clear that Kelly, Mattis and McMaster have come to realize they have an enormous responsibility to “Make America Safe.” Whether it is North Korea, Iran, Russia, or any other international hot spot that gets the president to start a new tweet storm, the generals have become the voices of reason and caution. Although at this time there is no definitive proof of “quiet collusion” among the generals, I suspect that there are midnight calls among the three on how to “Keep America Safe” and convince Trump from taking this country into the abyss. Already there are signs that the generals’ have decided that frequent policy reviews, delay in decision-making, control of Oval Office access, and some much needed staff house cleaning are the best means of avoiding chaos and gross miscalculation.

What will be interesting and at the same time dangerous is what happens if we enter impeachment mode or the Republican leadership decides that it is time to use the 25th Amendment and push Trump out of office. How will the generals respond to the political processes in place or will they take the lead in actually pushing their boss out the door?  If the Republicans continue to accept the status quo with the hope that the child president will change, will the generals do the dirty work? We have never really had a Latin American style palace coup in this country, but if the chaos and miscalculation continues and the president takes us into the abyss, will the generals move from advisers to a military junta? Keep your eye on the generals.